Seeing Double: ‘Mission to Mars’ vs ‘Red Planet,’ 2000’s Competing Sci-Fi Adventures

/Film | 2/26/2019 | Rob Hunter
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Original movies come out of Hollywood – it’s true! – but much of its output consists of films inspired by previous successes. They’re mostly visible in the form of direct sequels, of course, but they also come from studios trying to mimic a hit in tone, style, and/or genre. Michael Bay’s Armageddon was the second biggest box-office hit of 1998, so it was no real surprise that some similarly themed films went into production soon after.

Disney tried recapturing their own magic with Mission to Mars, while Warner Bros. entered the fray with Red Planet. (****, it’s entirely possible that Clint Eastwood’s Space Cowboys got the green light for the same reason.) Both films put movie stars into a rocket and launched them on a mission to the red planet, and they opened exactly eight months apart in 2000. Nobody cared about either one.

Mission - Control - Home - Message - Team

Anyway, mission control back home receives a disturbing message from the doomed team’s commander. Realizing he’s still alive, NASA puts together a rescue mission, but things go awry before they even reach the planet. Tiny meteors, explosions, and a twenty-minute spacewalk sequence meant to be suspenseful but hampered by flat dialogue audio seemingly pulled from rehearsal see the rescue team decimated. The survivors finally reach the planet’s surface – we know this because someone back on Earth says “They did it!” – where they find a frazzled commander barely hanging on. A quick round of DNA Sudoku later and the giant face opens as if to welcome them. Sounds impossible, I know, but as one of them says “We’re millions of miles from Earth inside a giant white face. What’s impossible?” Turns out the face on Mars is an alien hangar, and one of our heroes is about to get a journey beyond the stars.

Red Planet sends astronauts...
(Excerpt) Read more at: /Film
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